Place of Worship Fire Drills
Fire drills are regularly practiced at schools and even offices, but there are not many places of worship across the country that do so. Unfortunately, places of worship are susceptible to fires and being prepared for those types of situations significantly increases your ability to respond. Practicing a drill on a Monday afternoon with your office staff does not prepare the rest of your congregation, but with some planning, you can easily prepare your church. Today we are going to give you tips and discuss what you should do before, during, and after practicing a fire drill at your place of worship.
Prior to practicing a fire drill at your church, meet with your local first responders to do a walk through. Explain to them the fire evacuation routes you have set up and see if they have any feedback on ways to make it more successful. During your walk through, ask your first responders to point out any areas they notice as fire vulnerabilities in your place of worship and ways you can mitigate the risk. Your first responders will be able to give you safe areas your congregation should meet at if they have to evacuate due to fire. Also, pay special attention to the areas children are in and those who are disabled. Not only should your first responders help you plan for the drill, but also meet with your church safety team and explain the scenario. This is a good time to make sure safety plans are up-to-date and people are trained on emergency plans. Inform your congregation there will be a fire drill on a certain date and its purpose is to prepare for emergencies before they happen.
Your fire drills should take place during a normal service time, when there are multiple people accessing your grounds and when classes are in session. You can choose to involve your fire first responders in your drill by having them respond, or just inform them that your drill will take place on a certain day. When the fire alarm sounds during service, explain to your congregation it is just a drill and start a stopwatch to estimate how long it takes to get everyone out safely. Ensure a member of your safety team meets up with the children and other designated individuals are helping members with disabilities get to safety. Once everyone is out, stop the watch and note the time that it took and proceed back to your service.
Once your fire drills are completed and the congregation has left, hold a meeting with your safety team on the same day to debrief. Talk about the amount of time it took, any difficulties that were noticed during the real-life drill, and brainstorm ways to improve the response time in the future. Also, if your fire first responders responded to your drill, talk to them about any flaws they noticed and how your plans can be changed to accommodate those flaws. If needed, this is the time to amend your emergency plans to reflect any changes that can lead to a more cohesive and timely response.
Real-life fire drills for a place of worship can be difficult to plan and execute, but they are critical to an efficient response in the event of an emergency. Taking the time to plan with first responders, hold the drill when your congregation is present, and debrief and make changes as necessary, provides an added layer of safety for your members and your facility. Has your place of worship ever practiced a fire drill? Let us know in the comments below!